Women in Construction – Breaking Down Walls by Building Connections

As WIC Week™ or Women in Construction Week™ is upon us, US Construction Zone wants to do all that we can to promote, highlight and celebrate the positive trends we are seeing in the industry. Sure, we could look back and question why it has taken our industry so long to advocate for a more equitable and diverse workforce, but why dwell on the negative when there are so many powerful and inspirational women to celebrate, congratulate, and recognize! The term “glass ceiling,” which is defined as an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, specifically affecting women and members of minorities, unfortunately still exists in our industry. However, it is my belief that the ceiling has been, and continues to be, shattered by thousands of women and minorities who are powerfully leading the next generation of the workforce to stronger and more prosperous times! I would be remiss to talk about leaders of the industry today without paying tribute to some of the very first women in construction. In 1953, sixteen women in the construction industry came together to create what would later be known as National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). They created a support network that, nearly 70 years later, has expanded into 118 chapters across the country and thousands of members. The time has come to rid ourselves of the term ‘ceiling breakers’ and instead turn the focus onto the inspirational things women in this industry are already doing, celebrate the positive trends that are occurring and continue to bring awareness and understanding that only a short time ago did not exist. 

Over the past two years, I have spent a great deal of time building an executive network for construction professionals and I have been fortunate enough to have had hundreds of zoom meetings with many inspirational people. I have learned to say “yes” to virtually every meeting request, as well as pursue meetings with the greatest minds and leaders of the industry. I’ve continually been overwhelmed and proud with just how many remarkable people that we have in our industry. Many of the leaders that I’ve had the good fortune to meet are women, and all of them are eager to show the industry all that they are capable of and that they are here to stay. With the glass ceiling broken and previous walls crumbling, we find ourselves no longer looking at the past, how we got there, or why we stayed for so long – our focus is on the future, and rest assured, we are in good hands. Diversity comes in all sizes, colors, ages, and backgrounds, and we are encouraged to see the construction industry come to life with newfound creativity, innovations, and leadership styles. Nora Spencer, Founder & CEO of Hope Renovations, recently shared her experience: “I’m so happy that, not only are more women entering the skilled trades than ever before, our industry is welcoming them like never before! It’s a shame that it took a critical labor shortage for employers to realize that an entire gender was missing from the workforce… but they did, and things are changing. I get calls and emails every single week from men in our industry who want to meet our “Hope Gals” and, hopefully, hire them into their organizations. The comment I hear most frequently is, ‘Women make the best employees. We NEED them!’ I feel like that is a major culture change that has just come about over the past ten years or so. I would bet that in ten years, it will no longer seem unusual to see a woman on a construction site. And my hope is that in 20 years, this industry is THE place that women want to work. I want us to build the skilled trades into a woman’s world!”

According to ConstructUtopia, women make up over half of the U.S. population, but only 11% of the construction industry. For skilled frontline workers, that percentage is even less, sitting at just 3.4%. While it’s projected that 40% of the available workforce is set to retire in the next 10 years, who does that leave to fill the gap? Boston University MBA graduates, Teilachanell Angel and Misty Farrell, have spent months devising a plausible answer to that question. Their solution – hire more women – offering us all an opportunity, not necessarily a challenge. As this opportunity presents itself, we are already seeing an improvement in recruitment messaging, support and infrastructure, cultural changes, and the increased development of women’s trade organizations and networking groups. With the expansion of organizations such as The National Association of Women in Construction, Tradeswomen, Professional Women in Construction, Women Construction Owners & Executives USA, Hope Renovations, and multiple targeted conferences to attend, women now have a support system established, as well as diversified opportunities for professional development. According to G3 Quality, we are already seeing the positive trends develop:

  • From 2017 to 2018, the percentage of women in construction trades has increased by 17.6%. This was the highest recorded increase in 20 years!
  • From 2014 to 2019, the number of women-owned construction firms increased by 68%.
  • 13% of construction firms are women-owned. This percentage has increased by 94% since 2007!
  • 9% of women-owned construction firms make over $500,000 in revenue.
  • 44 out of the top 100 construction firms have women who hold chief-level or C-level positions.

Although the current members representing minority leadership are flourishing, more support systems continue to be created, and positive trends are manifesting, as an industry, we must diligently promote the importance of diversity in leadership if we want to create a viable and sustainable industry. For the NAWIC, the goal of Women in Construction Week is to celebrate, educate, and promote the role of women in the construction industry. NAWIC held the first WIC Week in 1998 and it has grown and expanded each year since. Many of their local chapters hold WIC Week events, which include delivering presentations to high school classes, job site tours, luncheons, and virtual events. The theme for 2022’s WIC Week is “Envision Equity,” which seeks to raise awareness of opportunities for women to enjoy a wide range of roles in the construction industry – from tradeswomen to project managers, administrative positions to business ownership (https://wicweek2022.my.canva.site/).

In my conversations with these motivated and compelling leaders in construction, I found a common theme – connection and relationship building are the keys to their success. Krista Trofka of AECGrowthLab explained: “From my perspective, AEC has always been a relationship business, which is why sales strategies from other industries don’t typically work in ours. We sell one of the most complex deliverables, a building, and it’s so much of an integrated and collaborative business now. Skills like listening and empathy are critical for winning work, so it’s no surprise you see women often at the helm of marketing and business development for our firms — but our seller-doers, technical professionals, and executives need to build these skills too.” Tabatha Christman, commercial account manager at RoofPRO recently told USCZ, “The past few years, every time I meet a fellow woman in construction, I’m greeted with nothing but happiness and support. It’s like they’re all equally as excited as I am to be a part of such an amazing, ever-growing world and I love that so, so much. The more women join the industry, the more comfortable new women feel when joining this industry because we’re all just so effortlessly happy to help build up the careers of newcomers. The amount of passion and sincerity I feel when I talk to a woman in construction fuels me. It motivates me to continuously want to better myself AND newcomers. It’s such a beautiful thing to see women come together in support of one another. The fact that I’m alive to see the day where women in hard hats and tool belts driving pickup trucks like me, come together to support one another fills me with so much joy. I will always be immensely proud to be a woman in construction.” As a collective industry, I hope that we are all motivated to support these inspirational trade organizations and participate in their WIC events, with the end goal being that we become an industry that our daughters and granddaughters will be proud of!

For US Construction Zone, we will not only support and promote these organizations, but we will also do our best to find creative ways to highlight women in construction and support those who want to become one. 

We are doing this with our podcast and member spotlights, and are now introducing a monthly live show called, ‘Construction Executives Live.’ We are thrilled to bring you our first show, titled

“Women in Construction – Breaking Down Walls by Building Connections.”

You can register for this event here -Register – we hope to see you there!

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